Multi-objective optimal design of high frequency probe for scanning ion conductance microscopy


Scanning ion conductance microscopy(SICM) is an emerging non-destructive surface topography characterization apparatus with nanoscale resolution. However, the low regulating frequency of probe in most existing modulated current based SICM systems increases the system noise, and has difficulty in imaging sample surface with steep height changes. In order to enable SICM to have the capability of imaging surfaces with steep height changes, a novel probe that can be used in the modulated current based hopping mode is designed. The design relies on two piezoelectric ceramics with different travels to separate position adjustment and probe frequency regulation in the Z direction. To further improve the resonant frequency of the probe, the material and the key dimensions for each component of the probe are optimized based on the multi-objective optimization method and the finite element analysis. The optimal design has a resonant frequency of above 10 kHz. To validate the rationality of the designed probe, microstructured grating samples are imaged using the homebuilt modulated current based SICM system. The experimental results indicate that the designed high frequency probe can effectively reduce the spike noise by 26% in the average number of spike noise. The proposed design provides a feasible solution for improving the imaging quality of the existing SICM systems which normally use ordinary probes with relatively low regulating frequency.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jian Zhuang.

Additional information

GUO Renfei, born in 1988, is currently a PhD candidate at School of Mechanical Engineering, Xi’an Jiaotong University, China. He received his bachelor degree from Northwest A&F University, China, in 2010. His research interests include optimal design and new applications of scanning ion conductance microscopy.

ZHUANG Jian, born in 1974, received his B.Eng, MS and PhD degrees from Xi’an Jiaotong University, China, in 1996, 1999, and 2003, respectively. He is currently an associate professor at School of Mechanical Engineering, Xi’an Jiaotong University, China. His research is involved in micro/nano imaging technology, artificial intelligence, and electro-hydraulic control system.

MA Li, born in 1989, is currently a master candidate at School of Science, Xi’an Jiaotong University, China. She received her bachelor degree from Xinyang Normal University, China, in 2013. Her research interest is on the cell behavior using scanning ion conductance microscopy.

LI Fei, born in 1980, is currently an associate professor at School of Science, Xi’an Jiaotong University, China. She received her PhD degree from the University of Warwick, United Kingdom, in 2008. Her present research interests are on fabrications of high-resolution microscopic and nanoscopic probes and the application studies of novel scanning probe microscopy in biological field.

YU Dehong, born in 1949, joined Xi’an Jiaotong University, China in 1985, where he is currently a professor at School of Mechanical Engineering, Xi’an Jiaotong University, China. His research interests include mechanical design, plastic processing and electro-hydraulic control system.

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Guo, R., Zhuang, J., Ma, L. et al. Multi-objective optimal design of high frequency probe for scanning ion conductance microscopy. Chin. J. Mech. Eng. 29, 195–203 (2016).

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  • scanning ion conductance microscopy(SICM)
  • multi-objective optimization
  • high frequency probe
  • finite element analysis
  • imaging quality